Before you can commit to any social media platform you need to know which one is right for your company’s goals and customers. As Titan SEO explains in this news release, not every company should be spending time and wasting money on every platform available. You need to analyze your audience and realize your goals before attempting to engage your customers through social media.

Proctor and Gamble, as I discussed in post three, clearly knew what they were doing when they launched their Old Spice campaign using personalized videos on YouTube. They knew who they were trying to reach and how they were going to engage them. If the Old Spice campaign had been done as a series of blog posts would it have had the same effect on the audience? The answer is no, and that’s exactly why it’s important for you to know the different social media platforms and how effective they could be at reaching and engaging your current and potential customers.

How do you determine which platform would be the most effective? In his post about whether or not social media is right for your company, Mark Collier says the first step should be monitoring and analyzing your customers, both current and potential. Find out what are they saying, and where they are saying it. He points out that even if you create a great company Facebook page, it won’t change the fact that all of your customers are on Twitter. In other words, if the majority of your customers are utilizing a particular site, you need to be actively engaging on it too.

This Conversation Prism below, created by Brian Solis and JESS3, illustrates the hundreds of sites that make up the social media universe. The prism is categorized by how people use each site and therefore is useful in determining which site your company should use for a particular purpose. Of course, you can’t be actively participating in all of them, which is why you need to monitor your customers and utilize their favorite sites. In fact, as Matt Owen explains in his post about which network is right for your business, spreading yourself thin over too many networks, or even participating on the wrong network could negatively effect your brand.

The Conversation Prism gives you a pretty good idea of the overwhelming number of social networking sites available today. However, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and blogs are seen as the major social media platforms. In his post, 6 social media platforms at a glance, Kent Lewis describes the mindset, demographics, opportunities and challenges of each major platform. Whatever the differences between the platforms they can all be used by companies to produce the same result: increased engagement and satisfaction of customers, which likely means increased revenue.

Take Dell for example, as Jennifer Van Grove explains in her post about making money on Twitter, Dell has accumulated $6.5 million from their presence on Twitter. With 100 employees tweeting, Dell’s Senior Manager for Corporate Affairs, Richard Binhammer, says Dell uses Twitter to connect, listen and engage with customers where they are.

After defining your goals, analyzing your audience and choosing a platform, all that’s left to do is build your site and begin engaging … as long as it’s OK with the CEO, of course.